Using Observation Rubrics

Standard

Anyone who has experienced John Van de Walle has probably read about observations rubrics. In his Elementary and Middle School Mathematics Teaching Developmentally book, he discussed various ways to collect formative data on students.  The observation rubric happens to be my favorite.


I’ve used this idea in my classes for about three years now. This school year I’ve been using it more consistently to truly inform my instruction on a day to day basis. What has helped with this consistency is use of standards based grading (SBG) as each rubric is developed based on the concept we are focusing on.

grade-snapshot

For example, we are currently focusing on linear vs non linear. So I reviewed the Achievements Level Descriptors developed by the Georgia Department of Education to define the levels of understanding. So when students engage in an activity, whether whole group, small group or independently I’m able to use the rubric to assess where they are.

Whole Group

Have you ever done a whiteboard activity with students? You may pose a question to the class, each student records their responses on their own whiteboard and holds it up for you to see their answers.  With the rubric on a clipboard, you can quickly record students level of understanding of the concept and make adjustments to the collaborative or independent portion of the day’s (or week’s) lesson.  As students are taking turns to go to the board to record their answers to problems, you could mark where they fall based on the expectations on the rubric.

Collaborative/Group/Partner Work

While students work on tasks from Illustrative Mathematics, Georgia Frameworks, Open Middle, etc.  I circulate with the rubric on the clipboard and ask questions or listen in on the conversations students are having and rate them on the rubric.

Formative Assessments

Often times I will use Exit Tickets or Plickers or post-it notes as formative assessments.  After reviewing the responses, I’ll record how the data reflects the expectations on the rubric.

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2 thoughts on “Using Observation Rubrics

  1. Nice to see VDW observation rubrics in action. Have there been any times where you’ve scored students as “on target” only to find that they are “not quite there?” or vice versa? If so, how might you handle this? I imagine this may be a question that other teachers may have as they begin thinking about using this amazing idea. Thanks for a great post!

    • Yes, because learning isn’t always linear I look for where students consistently fall. This required me to use the rubric multiple times throughout the week. If a student is consistently falling in not there yet, they’re pulled for small group targeted instruction. If they are mostly on target I continue with “instruction as usual”. If I need to elaborate a little more than this I certainly will.
      Thanks for reading Mike.

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